India’s gritty campaign at the Sudirman Cup came to an end on Friday after they went down 0-3 against top seeds and 10-time champions China in the quarterfinals of the mixed team championship in Australia.
Overcoming the experienced Chinese team was always going to be a tall ask for ninth-seeded India but the team fought hard.
The mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwik Sairaj, playing the world No 2 pair of Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong, managed to win their first game against the experienced duo. However, the Chinese pair fought back to win 16-21, 21-13, 21-16 in the first match that lasted an hour and three minutes.
Kidambi Srikanth was then up against the Olympic champion Chen Long and put up a brave fight. In the 48-minute men’s singles match, Srikanth showed some spark but never really came close to threatening the supremacy of the Chinese. In the end, it was a 16-21, 17-21 defeat against Long that saw India slip to a 0-2 deficit in the five-match rubber.
The young pair of Satwik Sairaj and Chirag Sen then took on Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan in the men’s doubles match and capitulated to a 9-21, 11-21 within half an hour as China registered a 3-0 win over India.
The next two matches – singles, which Olympic medallist PV Sindhu was supposed to play, and women’s doubles – thereby became inconsequential.
India had qualified for the knockout stage of the Sudirman Cup only once before, back in 2011. Even then, it was the Chinese who had ended their campaign with a 3-1 win.
China, which lost only one of their 10 matches in the round-robin stage, will face the winner of the other quarterfinal between Japan and Malaysia in the semis.
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives for India from the Sudirman Cup. Veteran Ashwini Ponnappa and 16-year-old Satwik Sairaj put up a performance to remember in the doubles, with the upset win over the experienced Indonesian duo of Tontowi Ahmad and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja being a highlight of the campaign. Sindhu and Srikanth’s showing in the singles was also noteworthy as Indian badminton went from strength to strength.